House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee’s report:
Ageing: Science, Technology and Healthy Living
An important report on what is happening now and what is predicted to happen in the years ahead. This is a link to the Report and other documents.
A short summary of the Report:
In 2017 the Government identified ageing as one of four Grand Challenges facing society (the others were artificial intelligence, a clean environment and transport and mobility) and this report, which was issued last January, considers how well we are doing in dealing with the growing numbers of older members of society. It identifies many real advances in scientific knowledge of ageing in recent years, but these are not reflected in policy advances. In demography although people are living longer, there are severe and even growing differences in life expectancy between groups in society in terms of income and poverty, environment and housing, and minority ethnic groups. These are reflected in health status and also in the provision of health care. The Covid pandemic has shown us the failure to link health and social care: this has been an ongoing policy failure for at least forty years, and one which successive governments have failed to grasp because it requires committed long-term planning and resourcing. More widely, and again as the pandemic has shown us, there are social issues of loneliness and isolation, and the need for more support for carers.
The Report’s conclusions are not hopeful: ‘Improving healthy life expectation is a vital and worthy ambition, but there has been a lack of leadership and planning for the Ageing Society Grand Challenge mission, resulting in minimal progress. The government should act now to revitalise the mission and utilise opportunities in science, technology and public health to ensure it is achieved.’
Commenting on this, David Jolley, our Chair, says: ‘It is for all of us in all our local church communities to interpret this message in the way we live and behave to each other, to family, friends and strangers – and to seek to support those in positions of influence to direct our national efforts in this light.
Contributions to the discussion were invited and Christians on Ageing submitted written evidence to the Committee:
The fact that people in this country are living longer is unquestioned, but the suggestion that life in the added years is life with disability and suffering (backed by a report from the King’s Fund www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/whats-happening-life-expectancy-uk), is at odds with figures from the ONS. Their report on Health Expectations at birth and at 65 years in the United Kingdom shows increased life expectation and reduced periods spent in ‘not good health’ in Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4 for the decade 2000-2002 to 2009-11
A great deal of the improvement in life expectation and quality of life at all ages, can be traced to improvements in the environment in which people live, rather than particular technological advances.
Further improvements in both healthy life years and total years lived will be achieved with most certainty by taking advantage of this learning – most obviously illustrated by the reduction in incidence of dementia in those sections of the population of Cambridge, Nottingham and Newcastle where people are better off than they were, but has fallen where there is unemployment and poverty.
Thus we would encourage a continuation in measures to improve education, advice on diet and exercise, and prudent use of advances in medicine. But we would emphasise the benefits which will come from ‘levelling up’ the quality of life available to the poorest and most vulnerable to that of the better off.
This will require: continuing education, taxation which redistributes wealth to achieve something nearer equality, employment policies which give greater security and terms and conditions, housing which is affordable to ordinary people, and support for community activities which help families to work together across the generations. This includes the faith communities
16 September 2019